Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Birthday Celebration

She stopped in an art shop on her way back, and studied little menu cards and favors, purchasing a roll of pink crepe paper, some green and yellow tissue paper, wire, and cardboard. As soon as she had finished the dessert for dinner she hurried to get out scissors, paste, pencils, and went eagerly to her dainty work.

Before Louise and Harry came home from school she had fashioned eight dainty little candy baskets with ruffled pink paper, and on each slender thread-like handle there nodded a lovely curly pink rose with a leaf and a bud, all made of the paper, with their little green wire stems twining about the pink basket. Eight little blue birds, with their claws and tails so balanced that they would hover on the rim of a water glass, and bearing in their bills a tiny place card, also lay on the table beside the baskets, the product of Cornelia's skillful brush and colors....

Louise to Cornelia: "What are you going to put into them? asked the little girl.
"Well I haven't decide yet," said Cornelia. "Probably salted almonds, don't you think?"
"Oh, but they're awful expensive!"
"Not if you make them, dear. You and I will make them. I've done tons of them in college for feasts. It's easy; just blanch them and brown them in a pan with butter and salt or oil and salt."

"Well, then we'll have some kind of soup, just a little; I think maybe spinach, cream of spinach soup, it's such a pretty color for Spring, you know, that pale-green, and matches the dining-room. It's easy to make, and doesn't cost much; and then we can have the spinach for a vegetable with the meat course. Now, let's see, those little clear sherbet glasses, are there enough of those?"

"A whole dozen and seven," announced Louise.

"Then we'll use those at the beginning for a fruit cocktail -- orange, grapefruit, banana, and I'll color it pink with a little red raspberry juice. I found a can among the preserves mother had left over from last winter. It makes a lovely pink, and that will match the baskets."

"Oh, lovely!" exclaimed the little girl ecstatically; "but won't that cost a lot?"

"No, dear, I think not. I'll figure it down pretty close tonight and find out; but it doesn't take much fruit to fill those tiny glasses, and it's mostly show, you know - one grapefruit, a couple of oranges, and bananas, and the rest raspberry juice. Spinach is very cheap now, you know; and we can make the body of the soup with a can of condensed milk. We can eat corn-meal mush and beans and things for few days beforehand to make up."

"Aren't we going to have ice-cream?" Louise's voice showed anxiety.

"Yes, but we'll make it ourselves. I found the freezer out in the back shed under all those carpets yesterday. And we'll have pale-green peppermint water-ice. It's beautiful, and costs hardly anything. You just make lemonade and put in a few drops of peppermint and a drop or two of confectioner's green coloring; and it is the prettiest thing you ever laid eyes on, looks like a dream and tastes - wonderful!"

"We'll have angel cake for the birthday cake, I think," went on the sister, "with white icing and little pink candles. Eggs are not expensive now, and anyway I found a recipe that says measure the whites, and such big eggs as we get take only nine to a cup. How will that be, angel cake and green water-ice for dessert?"

"But what are you going to have in the middle, Nellie, after the soup? Any meat?"

"Why, surely, round steak, simmered all day with an onion, and browned down with thick gravy the way you love it so well: only we'll cut it into small servings like cutlets before we cook it, and no one will ever dream what it is."

"Then we'll have new potatoes creamed, with parsley sprinkled over them, and spinach minced, with a hard-boiled egg on top; and for salad we'll make some gelatin molds in the custard cups with shredded cabbage and parsley in it, that on a lettuce leaf will look very pretty; and I'll make the mayonnaise out of the yolks of the eggs from the angel cake. There'll be enough left over to make a gold cake or some custard for the next day besides."

"Now write the menu. Raspberry fruit-cocktail, cream of spinach soup, round steak cutlets with brown gravy, creamed new potatoes with parsley, spinach, aspic-jelly salad, angel cake, mint sherbet, and coffee. Doesn't that sound good?"

~ an excerpt from Re-Creations
by Grace Livingston Hill

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